Pilot weighs in on his favorite controls aboard the “Queen of the Skies.”
There is no doubt that the Boeing 747 is one of the most complicated aircraft in the world to fly – but can five controls make it fun and easier for the aviators? Speaking to The Telegraph, British Airways pilot Mark Vanhoenacker shared his five favorite toggles aboard the world’s first jumbo jet.
To keep things moving on the ground, Vanhoenacker maintains the cabin lights and air circulation with the External Power Control switches. External Power can switch to either the Auxiliary Power Unit, a small jet engine on the aircraft, or electrical systems available at airports. Either one keeps the cabin cool and refreshed while passengers board or depart from their plane.
When it comes time to take off, the pilots fire two engines at a time using the start switches. With the right configuration, turning the aircraft on is eerily similar to turning on a car: pull the start switch, followed by turning the master switch to the “RUN” setting.
Communication is critical throughout the flight, and the pilots have that covered with a toggle switch on their controls. The Mic/Interphone switch allows pilots to go between talking to each other and ground with one movement, giving them one less concern when in control.
Weather and other situations can force pilots to make course changes quickly. This is where the “Execute” key comes into play in the cockpit computer. Pilots can check route deviations in real time, planning to make different moves as conditions demand. However, nothing takes shape until the illuminated “Execute” key is pressed, shortened as “EXEC.”
With the sophisticated electronics and satellite navigation at their disposal, it’s a much more complex technology that keeps them aligned with the world. Internal Reference Systems date back to the Apollo missions and are standard equipment for the 747. After configuration, these self-sufficient devices can distinguish aircraft speed, determine gravity and help guide pilots to their final destination based solely on movement.
Although all of these systems work together in harmony to keep the “Queen of the Skies” running, their time may be limited. Earlier in 2017, United Airlines announced that they would retire their final 747 at the end of October.